cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli)
Crataegus acutifolia Sarg.
Crataegus canbyi Sarg.
Crataegus hannibalensis Palmer
Crataegus pyracanthoides Beadle
Crataegus regalis Beadle
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Not confirmed.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for cockspur
hawthorn is Crataegus crus-galli L.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERTICS: Cockspur hawthorn is
a small tree that grows twenty to thirty feet high, twenty to thirty-five feet
wide; with wide-spreading, horizontal, thorny branches. It has a horizontal
spreading growth habit, becoming flat-topped with age. It has a slow growth
rate in the vertical dimension, but medium growth rate in the horizontal
direction. The trunk is often multi-trunked and armed on the trunk with
prominently branched thorns that are a potential liability (except for thorn-
less forms). Cockspur hawthonrs often "limb up" with age, as branching is
naturally low for this relatively short and horizontally branching tree. Twigs
are red-brown stems with small buds, with the older stems and branches
becoming gray. Thorns are very prominent, to 2" long, slightly curved,
downturned on the lower half of the stems and very prominent (hence the
common name of cockspur hawthorn, in resembling a rooster's or "cock's"
curved spur). As cockspur hawthorns age, they become very densely
twiggy and thorny.
Leaves are dark glossy to waxy green, broadest above or near the middle,
usually not lobed, and smooth about 3" long, alternate, short-petioled,
strongly obovate with a long cuneate base (i.e., spatulate), with fine
marginal serrations on the upper widened portion of the leaf blade.
Leaves are held distinctly upright above the stem, and in a V-shaped
staggered arrangement if one looks down the axis of the stem. Fall color
is often a showy multicolored array of red, purple, orange, and yellow
waxy leaves on the tree at the same time, coloring in late October and
early November. Flowers ranging from white to red are produced in
clusters. Fruits are broadest above the middle or rounded, dull red or
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: As with all hawthorns, cockspur
hawthorn can be found on distrubed sites, along the margins of
woodlands, along streams, and in abandoned fields. It prefers full sun
to partial sun and prefers a moist, well-drained soil in full sun, but is
very urban tolerant, including adaptability to poor soils, various soil
pHs, compacted soils, drought, heat, and winter salt spray.
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Cockspur hawthorn does best in the
initial stages of succession. It is often found growing well in distrubed
sites, along the margins of woodlands, and in abandoned fields - all
circumstances of initial successional regrowth. It becomes less frequent
in more advanced stages of succession, and is rare in mature forests.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Flowers are white 2" wide
inflorescences which blanket the tree in late May, effective for one
to two weeks and very malodorous. Fruits are clusters of pendulous
0.5" round fruits, green turning to orange by September, then to
brick red in November and often persistent into January or later.
Fruit is readily eaten by birds and squirrels.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Cockspur hawthorn grows from
southern Quebec, and Ontario to northern Louisiana, Alabama and
northwestern Georgia, and west to Kansas.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
The specific distribution of cockspur hawthorn has not been determined.
Specimens of Genus Crataegus are found throughout most of the park.
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: Cockspur
hawthorn can be found in variety of habitats, but does best in low
competition situations. As a small to medium size tree, with extensive
branching, it is best suited to open habitats with full sun. It can also be
found growing with American sycamore along creeks and rivers, and in
floodplain areas adjacent to waterways.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Cockspur hawthorn provides excellent
cover and nesting sites for many smaller birds. The small fruits are eaten
by many birds especially cedar waxwings, fox sparrows, and ruffed grouse;
rodents and other smaller birds. White tailed deer and mule deer browse
the young twigs and leaves.
Because it tolerates a wide variety of sites, it can be planted to stabilize
banks, for shelterbelts, and for erosion control.
Cockspur hawthorn is excellent in group plantings, deciduous screens,
groupings, tall barrier hedge, and seasonal accent tree.
Crooked Run Valley